I’ve been giving talks recently, entitled LOW SUGAR LIVING, and after going into detail about how fructose and glucose in excess can damage our health, people obviously want to know two things: ‘What do I eat?’ and, ‘How can I get there?’
I’m going to answer the second question in this article – ‘How can I get there? – How can I get to living low sugar?’
If you want to go cold turkey, and you know what you need to avoid – then go for it. If you want to find a different route to low sugar living, then these 5 steps will get you there. They will allow you to adjust, one step at a time away from foods that prime the cravings for hard sugar. These steps will allow your taste buds to alter naturally along the way. Following on from the five steps, is a second part article on tweaking your mindset to really make these steps work for you. They aren’t easy, but they allow you some time for adjustments instead of doing everything in one go.
So let’s go!
Step 1: DON’T DRINK IT.
Drinking your sugar is a sure fire way to absolutely flood your body with fibreless, direct hit sugar. This stuff goes straight to work on turning into visceral fat and coating your organs. Cutting out drink as the first step will cut out such a huge portion of your sugar intake all at once, that your body will feel the benefits as soon as you stop.
Isn’t this a bit drastic? Didn’t I say this would be a slower way to get into low sugar living. Perhaps. As I see it, drinking sugar doesn’t really have a place within the low sugar lifestyle. It’s a bad habit. We don’t need to drink sugar. The sooner the habit of putting glass to mouth can stop, the better it will be for you. If you are a pop or soft drink guzzler, then chances are that you are pretty hooked on sugar.
So no pop or juices! No apple juice, pineapple juice, mango juice, orange juice etc.
No cola, lemonade, gingerade, anything sweet and fizzy.
Alcohol – watch your intake of all alcohols. Cut out completely if you want to make a huge change to your health. I drink a glass of red wine roughly once every two weeks.
How to do this? Don’t buy it and toughen up mentally. It ain’t gonna be pretty, but you are completely capable to deal with not putting sugary liquid in your mouth. You can do it. Get into water. Water is the perfect hydration for us. Tap water should be fine. Take money saved from the pop habit and put it towards a filter if you’re concerned.
Herbal Tea is a perfect drink! It has flavour, it is warm and comforting, and it’s tasty. I love my herbal tea! Nettle, Fennel, Fruit Combos, Detox combos, Lemon and Ginger, Peppermint mixes, even cocoa teas. There’s a lot of choice, and I highly suggest trying as many as you can to see what flavours you enjoy the most. Even non-sweet cocoa drinks with plant milk is a lovely treat, that gives you hydration too.
Don’t substitute caffeinated tea and coffee for water. These are quite potent drinks. You do not need caffeine as much as you think you do. Sometimes it’s simply a bad habit to think that you can’t wake up without it. That’s not the case at all, you are completely able to wake up without it. Water in the morning (especially warm water with lemon), exercise, fresh air, deep breaths, plenty of rest (body and mind); these are what enable you to wake up refreshed and rested!
Step 2: TACKLE THE CARBS BEFORE THE SWEETS.
I wrote an article about How Eating Less Bread Stopped my Cravings for Sugar.
I’d wanted to cut down on how much wheat and gluten based products I was eating, as I agree with many who condone its effects – I don’t think the human digestive system can cope too well with grains! So I cut out bread, pizzas, crackers and the like. And at that time, even though I wasn’t on a mission to eat less sugar, my cravings for chocolate diminished. I thought about it, and it made sense. Bread is a glucose rich food. Glucose is a sugar – and it affects insulin levels within the body. When insulin is going up and down, your body enters a sugar cycle and cravings for sugar materialise. Stopping crazy insulin swings is a fantastic way to level off your sugar cravings and binges. An easy way to do that? Stop the glucose rich foods.
This way, you get a steady insulin level, and little to no cravings for sugary stuff. Of course, you may miss your carbs. The easiest way to do this is to cut right down on the cheap white carbs. So no white rice, white bread or white pasta. And replace with wholegrain if you want to eat these types of carbs. Get out of a carb rut. Try to make breakfast and desserts a grain free zone. Omlettes for breakfast, and fruit and nuts for dessert. Think outside the box for this one. You’ll be surprised how easy it is when the insulin becomes less rollercoaster like. You simply won’t be craving as many carbs and won’t be as hungry as you are now. The mouthfeel of bread is like no other, but I find personally, that after three days, the desire for it goes away. See what you are like. And feel reassured that this isn’t a ban on grains, but a new rotation system, with different grains coming to the fore less often through the week. It will help adjust to low sugar living if you give yourself a grain and carb break for a while though. So no crisps or chips, rice cakes, pretzels and the like.
Step 3: EAT FIBRE, EAT PROTEIN, EAT FAT.
If you are a sugar junkie in disguise (Breakfast cereals, fruit juice and low fat yogurt) then you are most likely always hungry, and constantly desiring something to eat, especially sweet stuff. To remedy this, you need to feel full. How? Eat real food.
Fibre: Absolutely essential. The best sources of fibre come from plant sources. Legumes, roots, leaves, flowers and vegetables. Eat raw when possible, or don’t cook to smush.
Protein: A great filler-upper. Protein takes a different metabolic pathway in the body than carbs, and so breaking it down takes longer. This means you feel fuller for longer. Protein doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat meat, although humane and organic meat can be your source of protein occasionally. Otherwise, legumes, mushrooms, seeds, nuts and dark leafy veg will do you very well. Eggs and cheeses can give you extra dense protein that will fill you up too when you’re in the mood for something more.
Fat: Rejoice in fat! Tasty, lip smackingly good and fills you up too. What more could you desire? Fear not, fat is good for you! Oily fish, nuts, seeds, olives, avocadoes, coconuts – waw, these are so super and body loving, you will feel balanced and full if you incorporate these lush foods into your life. Stay away from cheap and nasty fat, like most cooking oils, and any foods with hydrogenated fats like cakes, biscuits and margarine. No no no!
Step 4: COOK MORE, BUY LESS.
When you know how to cook, you know how to be healthy. Cooking set meals is great, but learning to combine ingredients on bare fridge days will allow you to really flourish in looking after your body. Take a look at my article on flavour combos, that will help you to cook meals without a recipe book in sight! Cooking more also means that you will no longer rely on processed foods as much. Processed foods are full of hidden nasties that do your body no good at all, and you will feel so much better cooking from scratch. This means that you can learn to satisfy your cravings with foods of your own making. With no hidden ingredients, chemicals or plastic packaging. Taking control of your health means taking control of what goes in your body, and unfortunately the big companies out there care little about what they put in their products, and in your body. Don’t give your long term health and hard earned money to them, in exchange for an addictive substance with flavour that only satisfies for minutes.
Step 5: REALLY ENJOY SWEETS AS ONCE IN A WHILE TREATS.
If there’s a birthday or special occasion, then this is the time to enjoy the real treat side of sugar. If you are eating hard sugar like chocolate, daily, then you are mistaking a treat for a snack. A snack should be something small and light, if you really have to eat anything. So for daily sweet hits, find other snacks that aren’t sugary. Fruit is a perfect snack, if not excessive. Berries and traditional, less sweet apples, rather than mango and pineapple. If you like something sweet after dinner (as do I) then you don’t necessarily need full on sugar. Sometimes dark chocolate is perfect, sometimes a glass of wine. Other times you’ll enjoy crunchy traditional oat cakes and nut butters, or melt butter and cinnamon with warmed apples or bananas. These flavours are so real, and chemical free, that you’ll get a flavour and sensation hit with just a small bit. But to expand more on this last step, read the next part of the Low Sugar series on Mind-Set Changes, which will make you view treats and sweets a lot differently.
Stop flooding your body with fibreless sugar in the first week, so no liquid sugar. You’ll find that your blood sugar will balance a lot quicker this way, and your cravings will lessen significantly. In the next few days watch how many carbs you eat, especially from grains. So basically any packaged pre-made edible. Take aways, ready meals, convenience snacks – these are the non-sweet secret sugar bombs, as they are loaded with fast release glucose that is destabilising your blood sugar on the sly. During these first two weeks, up your level of fat, protein and fibre from new and delicious sources. Go to wholesalers, or buy reduced price veg. Vegetables is where we get our immune boosting power from, so go to town on them. They’ll fill up your tummy too, and with lashings of healthy fat and good source protein – you will feel delightfully full up and satisfied. And in week three, it’s time to cut out the hard sugar. This isn’t a forever deal. But totally cutting out what I call hard sugar from sweets, cakes, chocolate, and biscuits will really help recalibrate both body and mind. Don’t think “I’ll never be able to eat these again.” Of course you can! But you’ll come to eat them with a different body and mindset once you allow yourself a break. Remember, they are addictive. So once you eat some, you’ll want more. Don’t be too hard on yourself, be kind – it’s not a willpower failure, it’s the nature of sugar to make you want more.
Excess sugar is actually dangerous to our health, even though it brings mouth pleasure, it will never bring real pleasure. Once you live low sugar though, you will discover real gratification in your life, and nothing is better that! Enjoy living on your own terms, and have fun!